I FULLY endorse the concerns expressed by the Friends of Castle Meadows at the proposed changes outlined in the planning application DM/2022/01831.

I fully support the construction of the much needed new Active Travel bridge over the Usk and the need for an improved link to Abergavenny. However the proposal to replace all the existing hard surface footpaths with a new 3m wide surface designated as a shared Active Travel route will severely affect current users of the Meadows.

The pathways have evolved to take you to the area where you can most appreciate the meadows and do not follow the most direct route into town. So those enjoying a leisurely amble with friends or family will have to share with cyclists heading directly into town.

The advice from SUSTRANS is “You should travel at a speed appropriate to the conditions and ensure you can stop in time.”

There is no doubt that a family with young children will have a different view from some cyclists as to what constitutes an appropriate speed as will those hard of hearing or with limited mobility. The advised speed limit in areas where children play is 5 to 10mph.

SUSTRANS also advises that on shared paths dogs should be kept on a short lead. How long before cyclists demand that all dogs using the paths have to be on a lead.

Direct routes from the bridge and from Ysbytty fields should be created to keep clear of the central and riverside area of the Meadows. This would minimise the potential for conflict and at the same time provide a better route to their destination for both cyclists and pedestrians heading into town. Those cyclists making a leisurely trip into town will continue to use the existing pathways.

It is worth noting that in the New Forest and on Wimbledon common cyclists are prohibited from using some pathways. I am not advocating a ban but seek to emphasise that the danger is real.

On the detail of the application there is a conflict about the type of surface to be used. One report advises tarmac and another a permeable surface. The report on how to deal with the run off surface water from the tracks will not be delivered for “several weeks”.

An image on the report shows a track similar to the one proposed with a shallow ditch a couple of feet from either side of the pathway! Surely important details such as these should be resolved before planning is submitted.

The cattle grid entries should be reviewed. The plan for the new bridge shows a bollard positioned to deter motorised access from the Llanfoist side. There are none on the cattle grids shown on the new plan.

The cattle grid on the meadows side of the new bridge is 1.5m wide. Why are the new ones 2m in width. Allowing cyclists such free and easy access onto the meadows is fraught with danger.

Any vehicle arriving at a junction has to slow down or stop to check if it is safe to proceed. Pedestrians have to stop to open a gate. Is it really too much to expect cyclists to do likewise.

Three points of access, Byfield Car Park, The Castle and Mill Lane are at the bottom of slopes where a cyclist descending has a very limited view to the gate and beyond. Measures to ensure cyclists cross the cattlegrids at a safe speed should be implemented, otherwise at some point there will inevitably be a serious accident for which MCC may ultimately be held responsible.

An urgent rethink is required and maybe it is now time to hold the long promised public meeting.

- Andrew Erskine, Abergavenny